Friday, September 14, 2018

Requiem Fear Fest: Keep It Short

Many horror film festivals die after one screening. Some last only two years. But a film festival that reaches its third anniversary is likely in it for the long haul.

The Requiem Fear Fest will hold its third annual screening this September 22, in Montreal Canada. If you plan on entering for their 4th event, festival director and co-founder Steve Villeneuve offers this advice:

* Keep short films short.

"If you are doing a short film, try to make it around seven minutes. If you go over that, be sure your film is rock solid. Every festival will take three 'okay' 10 minute films over an 'okay' 25 minute film."

* Hook 'em early.

"Timing is important. For feature films, you have about 15 minutes to catch the attention of the judges. If he's not hooked after 15 minutes, it's strike one. After 20 minutes, strike two. Twenty-five minutes and they are still not hooked, strike three [and you're out!].

* Sound is important.

"Bad sound is just bad. If your film has bad sound, you start with two strikes."


Requiem isn't solely about catering to filmmakers. Requiem also cares about its audience. "I'm all for the public," says Villeneuve. "Bring me some fun film that people will find epic. On our first year, we screened Night of Something Strange. It was amazing. This year we are screening Camp Death III in 2D!"

What distinguishes Requiem from other horror film festivals? For one thing, "We're doing a horror flea market," says Villeneuve. "Fans shop for a while. Then they stop to watch a film. Then they go shop again. That's the beauty."

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Halloween Horror Fest Tienen Seeks Short Films

Tienen is in Belgium -- and the Halloween Horror Fest Tienen is the first horror short film festival in that European nation. As the name implies, they screen on Halloween night. This year marks their second annual event.

Festival organizer Ray Kermani offers these tips to filmmakers:

* Be original. Give the audience something they haven't seen yet.

* Choose one location for your film.

* Work with a small crew. The smaller, the better -- and faster.

* Limit the amount of dialog.

* Use the right lighting on set.

* Never forget the importance of a great sound design for your horror film. Sound is as important as your images.

* Listen to what the audience has to say and wants to see. You want your movie to be seen [and enjoyed, and talked about] by horror fans out there.

* Stay away from the zombie genre. We've seen way too many zombie flicks. If your name is George A. Romero, then go for it. Otherwise, make something else.

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Gorst Underground Is Northwest Noir

The Gorst Underground Film Festival debuts this year, backed by experience. "Our organizers have been involved in other film festivals, both horror and underground," says festival director Kelly Hughes.

"We created Gorst to incorporate local artists and musicians into the event. To make it more multimedia, while still exploring darker themes and alternative approaches to filmmaking."


* What They're Seeking

"We love the underdog," says Hughes. "It’s very satisfying to showcase films that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

"I would love to see more real-life horror. Documentaries on scary individuals or happenings. Documentaries about horror films and people associated with horror (e.g., actors, composers, writers, directors, SFX artists, etc). "Documentaries such as Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. There’s room for docus like that, but which cover even more obscure aspects of horror and underground film.

"Non-linear, abstract, and experimental narratives are appreciated.

"We’re open to ultra-low-budget/no-budget works. Films that are rough around the edges."


* Tips to Improve Your Craft

Hughes recommends that you "Put the fantasy back into dark fantasy. Take advantage of the freedom horror gives you. Get surreal. Go hallucinogenic.

"Re-watch all the movies that inspired you. Remind yourself about all the elements that got you excited about these films. Use those elements, but put your personal spin on it."


* What to Avoid

1. Long Opening Credits.

"Just dive into your film. Save the credits for the end."

2. Excessive Running Time.

"Be brutal with editing. Maybe your two hour feature can be 90 minutes? Maybe your feature would be stronger as a short? Even then, shave off a few seconds from every cut? Maybe you can delete entire scenes? Or cut to the middle of a scene?

"We don’t need to see people opening and closing car doors. We don’t need to see their every step from the bedroom to the bathroom. Audiences are aware of the basics of day-to-day living. Get to the point. Move your story along."

3. Static Shots

"Many beginning filmmakers pose their actors in shots like it's a still photo. If you're drawing attention to a 'cool' shot, you probably aren't advancing the story. Make your action so compelling that we don't even notice your beautiful lighting, production design, whatever.

"Get over the fact that you can create a workable image. Get back to telling a story that is constantly progressing and offering new information. Think in terms of a series of useful connecting shots, not a slide show of money shots."

4. Slow Burn

"Some filmmakers use it as an excuse for lazy filmmaking. Don't. If you achieve a sense of dread with gradually building suspense, more power to you. But don't defend your slow-moving story with the 'it’s a slow burn' excuse. It's not a slow burn. It's just slow. And boring."

5. Lovecraft

"Why do Lovecraft inspired films always end up unintentionally silly? It's not the filmmaker's fault. Lovecraft is a big tease. His literary 'payoffs' don't translate well to screen. If you want to adapt his work, go ahead. Maybe you'll be the exception. Maybe you'll crack the Lovecraft code."

6. Retro Synth Soundtracks

"Go ahead. Use 'em. But they're approaching cliché status through overuse. Sorry. Try shocking us with piano music. Or bagpipes. Or xylophone, even."

7. The Graffiti Wall Shot

"If you have access to a wall covered in colorful graffiti, resist the urge to shoot a random shot of your actor walking past the gratified wall. It's self-indulgent. It adds nothing to your story.

8. Giant Head-Covering Masks

"To achieve a sinister, horrific, kinky vibe, resist the urge to cover your actor's head with a big bunny head, or a big pig head, or even a slick black gas mask. These have all lost their shock value. Show us a villain with pantyhose pulled over his face. Or just give him crooked teeth and a wonky eye. The fetish dungeon look is so cliché."

9. Alarm Clock

"Never start your film with an alarm clock going off. Not even ironically."


* Gorst Is Northwest Noir

Why makes Gorst unique among the many horror film festivals out there? "Gorst is true Northwest Noir," Hughes answers. "It's a small community at the edge of Bremerton, near the Naval shipyard. A working-class town with steelworkers and an authentic blue-collar sensibility.

"Seattle is just across the water, but it feels like it's a thousand miles away. Gorst has that authentic Twin Peaks vibe. There is nothing ironic or self-conscious about it.

"We'll be screening our films in the warehouse workshop of metal artist Ray Hammar. It's a remote location. The space has an industrial feel. The audience will be surrounded by iron rods, steel beams and scrap metal.

"We'll have an art show, musical performance, reading of the winning screenplay from our writing contest, and a welding demonstration. But the films themselves will take center stage on a specially-built screen/set-piece created by local metal artists.

"This warehouse would make a good setting for a horror film. As the sun sets, the later screenings will take on a more immediate, spooky tone. Every little sound will make you think there's a killer hiding in the shadows behind the clusters of rusty metal. And since there's a women's prison not too far away, who knows? Maybe we’ll get a surprise visit from an escaped murderer."

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Haunted Saloon Welcomes "Dark Westerns"

The Haunted Saloon will hold its 3rd annual screening on October 21, 2018, in Vancouver, Canada.

"We want horror with a brain," says James Kingstone. So make it smart. And while he welcomes all subgenres, some might have an easier time getting in.

"We see a lot of 'monster in the house' movies. We get that it's easy to shoot, but it certainly is over-saturated at this point." One subgenre that's especially welcome is the Dark Western. "We are the Haunted Saloon, after all."

Kingstone offers filmmakers the following tips:

* Nerd it up. Learn what is going on in horror.

* Be mindful of maintaining suspense.

* Don't show the monster too much.

* Get the right sound design. Sound is a great worker. Without it, that "horror feeling" is tricky to create.

The Haunted Saloon offers winning filmmakers a Halloween party atmosphere -- and trophies!

"Our trophies are terrifying and custom made every year," said Kingstone. "The Rio Theatre is a classic location, complete with alcohol. It holds over 400 people, so we can really pack the house. A lot of people dress up in costume. We even have a contest at intermission.

"East Vancouver does Halloween right. We are a bunch of horror loving cinephiles."

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Lucid Dream Fantastic Seeks the Surreal and "Non-Standard"

Another film festival making its debut -- October 26th through 28th this year! -- is Lucid Dream Fantastic.

The event's founder and artistic director, Stefano Cosimini, says the film festival "is part of a bigger project of cultural promotion, regarding not only cinema, but also music and theater."

The Lucid Dream Fantastic Film Festival sounds like it leans toward fantasy, but Cosimini says it actually has four categories: fantasy, sci-fi, horror and animation.

"We're looking for innovative films," said Cosimini "We're against the visual and conceptual standardization of the mainstream cinema. But we're not looking for niche experimental films. We want something that the common audience could enjoy. Something that can help them to get familiar with non-standard narrative styles."

So, innovative and non-standard, but audience friendly. Not too experimental. I interpret that to mean, not so artsy-fartsy that it ceases to entertain.

"Of course," Cosimini adds, "we'll have special consideration for films with oneiric atmosphere."

I had to look that up. Oneiric means "Of, relating to, or suggestive of dreams." Which makes sense, that a festival called Lucid Dream Fantastic would welcome the oneiric. I assume they'd just love David Lynch style surrealism.

Cosimini offers the following advice to entrants: "Being myself a filmmaker who has been selected in a few festivals, I think the key is never settle for your ideas. Always go further. If an idea seems to work, ask yourself what is the craziest plot twist that could happen, and then start working on that. I think the best stories come from the craziest ideas.

"The main mistake is being predictable. Independent films have the chance to be 'different.' Why not take an advantage of this?"

Lucid Dream Fantastic will screen in Tuscany, Italy, which Cosimini considers a big plus. "The LDFFF is set in Garfagnana, a magical place north of Tuscany. And when I say 'magical,' it's not just figurative. Our territory is full of legends and old tales, both dreamy and horror. This is the perfect location for a fantastic film festival."

Despite Lucid Dream Fantastic's bent toward fantasy, Cosimini describes himself as "a professional filmmaker, specializing in horror films."

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Death's Parade Film Fest to Debut in San Jose

New horror film festivals are always debuting. One of these is Death's Parade in San Jose, which will hold its first even on October 4th and 5th, 2019. 

That's over a year from now, but the Early Bird Deadline is January 1, 2019 (Last Chance, June 30th), so it's not too early to enter.

"Because this is our inaugural run," says founder Anthony DeRouen, "the theme will be inspiration. This will be reflected in our selected filmmakers' bios." DeRouen wants filmmakers to explain "What excites you? Show us what drives you to create that wonderful, terrifying, insidious art you make."

Death's Parade welcomes every horror subgenre. Just be scary. "We want to scare the audience --and I mean scare them. We want to get under their skin, get those beads of sweat going, subvert their expectations, show them something fresh and original. We want to expose the audience to creators and voices outside the norm. If we receive a submission completely out of left field that gets our palms sweaty, we will give it serious consideration."

But though DeRouen wants "fresh and original" horror (don't we all?), he doesn't want to discourage anyone. "Don’t be afraid to make a film which has elements done before. If you have a fresh spin on a well-worn trope, explore it, probe it, expand it. Combine elements not usually seen in horror and flip it upside down. What happens when you do? We have no idea, but we’d love to see."

Even so, Death's Parade has some limits. "No adult films, please."

DeRouen stresses the importance of finding talented actors, willing to commit to the material. "It doesn’t matter if the actor has ten credits to their name or none. The audience is not going to judge their IMDB page. They are going to judge the actor's performance on screen and nothing else. Find actors willing to embody the characters you created and lift their emotional levels to heights you couldn’t imagine."

Post-production is also important. In the editing room "pay close attention the film’s pacing. Don't rush the final cut, or the music composition. Sound mixing and color grading are also important steps in delivering a worthwhile film."

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.